University of Southern Indiana

Expert Art Advice

fancy picture frame

Your art may not be as extensive as USI’s 3,500-ish pieces, or valued for as much, but you love it and want to preserve it too. Susan Colaricci Sauls, director of University Art Collections, has cared for the institution’s multi-million-dollar collection since 2005. Here is her expert advice on how you can care for your art.


Environment for artwork involves light and air quality. In this instance, artwork may be compared to people. If the light feels bright to your eyes or warm on your face, it will to the artwork. If your skin is dry or sweaty, your artwork may experience it as well.

Natural light coming through a window and the artificial light of a lamp or overhead lighting causes the pigment of artwork to fade and stains of wood to naturally bleach. Protect these items with light-filtering or blocking window coverings and keep items out of the spotlight of lighting fixtures.

Be sure to monitor air quality and temperature within your home. A steady temperature is best; not too humid or too dry. Humidity can add moisture to paper causing it to curl. While humidity isn’t good, you also don’t want it to be so dry that it wicks any natural moisture out of the artwork, causing it to become dry and brittle.

How to keep the environment art-friendly:

  • Use UV glass, also called museum glass, for framed artwork to block damaging light.
  • Monitor artwork inside the frame for signs of damage like fading, mold or insects.
  • Prevent pockets of moisture and dust from forming behind the artwork by keeping a small space between the wall and artwork to allow for air circulation.


Routine cleaning will enhance the look of your artwork. Dusting is your first line of defense and should be done before using any kind of damp cleaning method. For regular cleanings of the artwork frame, an old-school feather duster or microfiber duster work well. Cleaning the glass or acrylic covering the art, also known as glazing, provides a clear view of the work. Spray cleaner onto a soft lint-free cloth first, then clean the glazing with the damp cloth.

Additional things to remember:

  • For a deeper cleaning, use a soft, lint-free cloth (old t-shirts work best) that is damp with warm water and apply gentle pressure.
  • Watch for any loose wood, gold leaf or paint on the frame as these could chip or break off when cleaning.
  • Using ammonia-based window cleaners on Plexiglas or acrylic glazing can cause them to become cloudy, impeding a clear view of the art. Use a warm, damp cloth instead.


While works of art may not always be replaceable, reimbursement of the value to purchase another work of art is the benefit of insurance. Homeowner’s insurance may cover artwork, so you want to be sure to keep an inventory. It is easy to maintain a digital file with an image of the artwork and scanned receipts for the purchase of the artwork and framing. It is common practice for many collectors to simply create a “house art tour” on video as a record of their possessions.

An inventory should include the following information:

  • Image of the artwork
  • Name of the artist, title, media and size of the artwork and frame
  • Receipts or the date and amount paid for the artwork and framing

Susan Colaricci Sauls

Susan Colaricci Sauls M’16, director of University Art Collections, holds a bachelor’s degree in art with associated studies of business from the University of Evansville and a master's degree in public administration, non-profit administration from USI. With an arts or cultural heritage administration career, she never has the same day twice.

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